Why India Should Not Ban Orkut

A com­ment on my pre­vi­ous post gen­er­at­ed so many thoughts in response, that I thought it fit to cre­ate anoth­er post. Text in ital­ics is from the com­ment on my ear­li­er post.

Orkut is thriv­ing on pro­mo­tion of obscen­i­ty, defama­tion, anti India sen­ti­ments and oth­er ille­gal activ­i­ties.
Orkut thrived in India much before it was used for obscen­i­ty and defama­tion. While obscen­i­ty and defama­tion are indeed ille­gal, Orkut thrives not *because of* these activ­i­ties, but in spite of it. It is pri­mar­i­ly used by major­i­ty of Indi­ans (over 8 mil­lion) for social net­work­ing pur­pos­es. The folks who use it for ille­gal activ­i­ties are a minis­cule minor­i­ty.

Many users think it is their birth right to use the space for hurt­ing oth­ers.
Noth­ing is wrong in a democ­ra­cy to express view­points that may hurt oth­ers. We do have strict laws that pro­hib­it expres­sions that may hurt pri­vate or reli­gious sen­ti­ments, and Orkut has assist­ed Indi­an author­i­ties in remov­ing such con­tent.

The vio­la­tors for­get that by their action they are dis­re­spect­ing the pri­va­cy and free­dom of the vic­tims.
Yes, but that is not Orkut’s fault. It is sim­ply pro­vid­ing the plat­form for com­mu­ni­ca­tion and com­mu­ni­ty-for­ma­tion. Dis­re­spect­ing free­dom of any oth­er per­son is not against the law as long as there is no cog­niz­able action. With respect to pri­va­cy, yes, it is ille­gal (see my post Indi­an Women: Beware of Orkut), and Orkut does assist Indi­an law enforce­ment (US-speak for police) author­i­ties to take puni­tive action against those who dis­re­spect the pri­va­cy of oth­ers.

It is there­fore cor­rect to put a reign on Orkut. It is unfo­tu­nate that in India we need to take the long wind­ing route of approach­ing the CERT every time such vio­la­tions take place.
We do not need to approach CERT every time a vio­la­tion takes place. Orkut has coop­er­at­ed excel­lent­ly with urban police author­i­ties to track down crim­i­nals who use it for obsen­i­ty or defama­tion. Wher­ev­er Indi­an law has been vio­lat­ed, Orkut has extend­ed its full sup­port to track down the per­pe­tra­tors of the crime.

While “ban­ning” may not the ide­al solu­tion, it is a nec­es­sary threat at least as a mea­sure to remove the incen­tives avail­able for Orkut to con­tin­ue pro­mo­tion of ille­gal activ­i­ties.
Orkut has nev­er *pro­mot­ed* ille­gal activ­i­ties. It is sim­ply an enabling plat­form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and social com­mu­ni­ty bond­ing. Some­one can start an SMS cam­paign malign­ing a promi­nent his­tor­i­cal fig­ure, and gain thou­sands, if not mil­lions, of sup­port­ers. Then will you ban SMS? If some­one starts a news­pa­per that is high­ly crit­i­cal of the Con­gress, and invites let­ters and edi­to­ri­als seek­ing arti­cles and opin­ions that are anti-Con­gress, includ­ing deroga­to­ry state­ments about our high­ly revered Prime Min­is­ter, will you ban that news­pa­per?

If your answer is yes, then what does Democ­ra­cy mean? What is meant by “Free­dom of Expres­sion”?

The anti-India com­mu­ni­ties on Orkut are not destroy­ing thou­sands of crores of pub­lic prop­er­ty in demon­stra­tions, about which noth­ing is being done. It is a non-vio­lent protest against India. Ban­ning such com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­forms that allow peo­ple to express anti-India sen­ti­ments and thoughts is a reac­tive response that smirks of British Colo­nial­ism — ban, destroy, and kill every­thing and any­one anti-British in the hope that the British colo­nial­ism will sur­vive. Did it work? If India has not learnt about non-vio­lent protests in spite of its free­dom strug­gle, who can?

The great val­ue being placed on India’s phe­nom­e­nal growth even if it is noth­ing com­pared to Chi­na, is that this growth is hap­pen­ing in the world’s most pop­u­lous Democ­ra­cy. Our con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees the fun­da­men­tal right to speech, and I some­times feel sad that Indi­ans do not val­ue its worth.

For a prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence of the Great Fire­wall Of Chi­na, see a CNET’s  reporter’s expe­ri­ence here. It is high time we learnt to appre­ci­ate the mean­ing of free­dom.

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